Since the Omicron subvariant BA.5 has quickly taken over as the predominant COVID-19 variant in the United States, it’s understandable that people have concerns. In early May, the CDC’s variant tracker recorded only a few cases of BA.5, but by the end of the month, that number had risen to nearly 54 percent.
Many people are wondering if BA.5 can be obtained outside, given how quickly it has spread and that it has done so during the warmer months. Infectious disease experts say the short answer is yes, but the answer is a little more complicated. Find out how to keep yourself and the people you care about safe from illness with these helpful hints.
What about BA.5 in the open air?
According to Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York, yes, you can contract BA.5 outside, but you could also contract other COVID variants outside. Outdoors, he says, has never been a completely safe place. “There’s no doubt about it—you’re much less likely to contract an infection indoors than you are outside. Longer periods of time spent with an infected person in close quarters increases your risk of contracting the disease. Your chances of contracting Omicron depend on how close you are to an infected person, as well as the airflow and ventilation in the area you’re in. As opposed to poorly ventilated indoor spaces, “virus disperses quickly and doesn’t fill an area over time,” explains Dr. Russo
Dr. Russo cites the lack of wind and the infectiousness of the variant matter as contributing factors. As a result, “we believe that BA.5 is more transmissible than previous Omicron subvariants.” BA.5 is more likely to be found in nature than any other COVID variant, such as Delta or even an Omicron variant.
Despite the lack of research, “it’s the most contagious variant we’ve had so far,” infectious disease specialist and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine professor William Schaffner says. Having a spreader at your barbecue party could theoretically allow you to spread it to your guests outside, he explains.
What are the most dangerous places to be outside?
Dr. Russo says that the most dangerous situations are those in which people are crowded together for a long period of time. Concerts in the open air are among the possibilities.
Movies in the park
Pubs with a view
a game of sports
“You’re at risk” if you attend large outdoor events where you’ll be crowded with many other people for an extended period of time, according to Dr. Schaffner.
What is the subvariant of BA.5 called again? –
The highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19, BA.5 is a subvariant of. The CDC has classified it as a variant cause for concern (along with other Omicron variants). Dr. Russo explains that it is able to spread between people because of several mutations in the spike protein.
When it comes to evading vaccine-induced or previously-infected immunity, “it appears to be more infectious than earlier variants,” says Dr. Russo. This subvariant, BA.5, may cause more severe disease, but it’s still unclear.
BA.5 has been compared to measles, which is the most contagious virus known to man, but infectious disease experts aren’t yet sure. “I don’t think any highly reliable likening to measles contagiousness can be made—there’s not enough data at this point and I don’t believe we have the near 100% attack rate seen with measles or its degree of airborne transmission,” says Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security
Dr. Schaffner concurs with me. This is an interesting topic of discussion, but we don’t have any concrete solutions, he says. Measles is still the most contagious virus, but BA.5 is catching up fast, according to the CDC.
What you should know about BA.5
Dr. Adalja says that, despite the fact that COVID-19 transmission in low-risk settings is “generally uncommon,” it is impossible to avoid the virus at this point.
If you’re at risk for severe illness, you should get vaccinated and then re-vaccinated, he explains. High-risk individuals should also consider wearing masks in highly congregated areas, having close contacts tested before engaging with them, receiving Evusheld, and preparing for Paxlovid and/or monoclonal antibodies if they test positive.” Evasheld is a combination of two human monoclonal antibodies that are used to prevent COVID-19 (tixagevimab and cilgavimab).
Dr. Russo recommends avoiding crowds if you’re at risk for COVID-19 complications or if you just don’t want to get infected. It’s best to stay away from situations where people aren’t wearing masks indoors, according to this expert. You’ll also want to wear a high-quality face mask if you’re going to be in close proximity to other people for a long time.”
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